Recently, Apple has made some particularly outrageous missteps with regards to its App Store approval process — approving obscenely offensive apps like “Shake the Baby” (only taken down after days of widespread condemnation), while denying apps & updates which are not themselves in violation of Apple’s (perhaps questionable) policies, but rather merely allow access to the same mature-oriented third-party content iPhone & iPod Touch owners can easily get via Mobile Safari. In recent days, Apple has dropped several hints that the enhanced Parental Controls in iPhone OS 3.0 may resolve most if not all of these issues.
Two of the most recent examples of questionable decisions by Apple’s App Store submission moderators (censors?) include the first update to Nine Inch Nails’ wildly popular & innovative “NIN: Access” app, the development of which we’ve followed closely here at Rumors….in that case, Apple moderators cited the ability to download podcasts (which is far from being specific to NIN: Access) which included NIN’s “Closer,” with a single offensive lyric (“I want to f-bomb you like an animal”).
Never mind that the same podcast, and the song included within it, can easily be accessed from Mobile Safari or iTunes among countless other avenues. Never mind that anyone who knows the first thing about Nine Inch Nails should be prepared for occasional adult-oriented themes in its music. Never mind that said content is not actually part of the app itself, but merely something that can be accessed using it.
Similarly, multiple apps which allow users to communicate directly with one another via unmoderated text chat — such as LatestChatty.ipa — have been denied approval because during their cursory examinations of said apps, Apple’s moderators noted profanities and adult-oriented conversations taking place using the app in question.
Not only has this “rule” been inconsistently applied to such apps (apparently only when the moderators happen to notice such conversations during their short period of testing), but it makes app developers responsible for all third-party content and user conversations in a way that makes very little sense — not to mention being exceedingly impractical.
However, there appears to be a solution on the horizon — the fine-grained Parental Controls which will arrive this summer as part of the iPhone OS 3.0 release. With the ability for users (whether “parents” or not) to restrict the use of apps, and even some in-app content, based on various criteria, Apple would not have to be as aggressive in moderating applications.
Whether or not, as Apple has hinted to several of the affected app developers, the 3.0 release will address the bulk of these problems….Apple needs to take a long hard look at its approval process and decide just how much denying apps really helps. As many readers and NIN’s Trent Reznor himself have noted, there is tremendous inconsistency between what is “allowed” in the App Store and what is considered acceptable for iTunes music tracks, podcasts accessible in iTunes, and even Mac apps linked from the Apple web site’s software pages.
Could a solution be as straightforward as marking certain apps “Intended for Mature Users” similar to the way the WW2 combat game “Brothers in Arms” is labeled in the App Store? Is there another solution, or are we simply going to have to wait for iPhone OS 3.0 to get a consistent and reasonable approach to approving apps that allow access to unmoderated third-party content?